Is this man the next Garrison Keillor?


I won’t keep you in suspense; I don’t know. But a news release from American Public Media today, coupled with the occasional remark from Garrison Keillor that he might retire will certainly lead to speculation that John Moe, pictured, might be the answer to a question that media observers have been asking for years: What’s the post-“A Prairie Home Companion” landscape look like at Minnesota Public Radio?

The lede on the release was that David Brancaccio, Marketplace’s special correspondent and recent host of Marketplace Morning Report, will be taking on the role of host of Marketplace Tech Report. That’s a job now held by Moe.

But this is the real news: 

By having Brancaccio host Marketplace Tech Report, its current host, John Moe, will devote the full measure of his talents and energy to Wits, Minnesota Public Radio’s two-year old show that features creative storytelling and musical performances by some of America’s most talented writers and musicians including Fred Willard, Roseanne Cash, Andy Richter, Amy Sedaris and They Might Be Giants.

Moe has been hosting the show, since its launch, in addition to his on-going duties hosting Marketplace Tech Report.

“In just two years, Wits has established itself as a weekend destination for great storytelling, great music and illuminating conversation” said McAlpine. “We think there is enormous potential for Wits to go national and John’s absolutely the right person to lead that effort.”

“It has been a fantastic opportunity to host and develop Marketplace Tech Report, while also pursuing my passion for music and storytelling on stage in front of a live studio audience,” said Moe. “With Tech Report in such good hands, I’m free to plunge whole-heartedly [sic] into Wits and into making it a national show. I’m thrilled.”

When asked the obvious question (the one in the headline to this post), Moe played the good soldier.

“I think we already have a Garrison Keillor, don’t we?” he said.

Wit’s recent finale — moved to a Saturday night from its Friday evening incubator — could hardly have been more inviting to a comparison with A Prairie Home Companion.

Wits is, to put it succinctly, hip. It attracts the children and grandchildren of Keillor’s audience, which still sets the traditional public radio image. But for how much longer? Public radio needs younger listeners for long-term survival.

Keillor “announced” more than a year ago that he would step aside as host in 2013, then later in the year seemed to backtrack from the announcement.

The show still packs them in, especially when it hits the road. There’s a comfortable “sameness” to it, and there’s no indication anyone in public radio is anxious to move Keillor along.

But with the recent announcement that Car Talk — another public radio icon — would cease production in October, there’s been more speculation (including in this space) about whether public radio has a plan for replacing an aging fleet.

If Moe is part of one, his employers (who are also my employers) aren’t saying.

(Update 7/11 7:22 a.m.) — “I don’t see Wits in relation to a ‘post APHC world,'” Judy McAlpine, the senior vice president and general manager of American Public Media, says. “APHC is going strong and we are much more focused on the current world where APHC and Garrison Keillor continue to delight fans with a beloved program. In my view, no one is going to replace Garrison Keillor. He is one of a kind. Wits is its own project, with its own personality, John Moe, and will develop on its own terms. Overall, I think there is room in public radio for many unique programs and personalities to bring joy to people’s lives.”

  • vjacobsen

    Wits instead of PHC? That would be awesome. This 30-something sustaining member would welcome that. And truly, if they can welcome new, fresh ideas instead of recycling the old, I’ll even up my contribution.

  • Bob Moffitt

    I still miss Jeff Horwich’s old show “In the Loop.” I also miss the free beer.

    Sounds strange hearing Horwich doing financial reports now.

  • Tyler

    What happened to the previous host of “Tech Report”? I can’t even remember his name now.

  • Bob Collins

    You mean when it was “Future Tense?” Jon Gordon. He’s now editor for the newsroom’s social media. And he’s my boss.

  • Jim Shapiro

    I’m willing to give Moe a shot if he promises not to sing.

  • Sarah Marie

    I have been listening to Garrison Keillor since I was in the womb – my parents found relaxation and sanity in his Saturday night program, but I feel that all things eventually must come to an end. John Moe is one talented gentleman and Wits could explode into something great, I feel that it will be as treasured as A Prairie Home Companion is by public radio listeners. I welcome this change up (even if we are strictly speaking skeptically)!

  • Michael Farnham

    John Moe is the next… John Moe.

    I think it would be a mistake to try to recreate a highly personal, idiosyncratic program like PHC with someone other than GK. How’d it work with Ira F. (I barely remember)? Could you imagine an Ira Glass monologue with church basements, bad coffee, fishing/baseball playing dogs, and Lutefisk? “Like to see some stuck-up jockey boy sittin’ on Dan Patch”?

    John Moe is highly talented and has a good program. Let him keep developing his natural talent. It took a while for GK to develop his groove (resembling a thin Jerry Garcia). Please don’t create PHC II, The Sequel!

  • Xopher

    Moe is the future! Wits is the best show on MPR.

  • Tom Anderson

    I have a question for you or your boss: Is there any correlation between the name change to Marketplace Tech Report and Slate Magazine starting to use Future Tense?

  • Bob Collins

    I don’t believe so. All of those old St. paul shows — Sound Money, Future Tense — were rebranded with the Marketplace name when they moved west.

  • Cara

    I mourned when Weekend America went off the air and took John Moe along with. So now I vote for Wits becoming the PHC replacement at least one of the three (3!) times it’s on every weekend.

  • Suzanne

    I think instead of just the great John Moe replacing Keillor, Wits could perhaps replace P.H.C.? I can’t imagine anybody replacing Keillor at P.H.C., but Wits is such a smart show really coming into its own that it could be the next P.H.C….

  • Jim

    NPR was testing new content over 20 years ago. I used to plan my weekend work schedule around “Joe Frank: Work in Progress”.

  • nicki

    My husband and I have attended 3 Wits shows over its 2-year tenure. It’s very fun, but it’s also very clear that it’s being groomed (with Moe at the helm) to be the younger, hipper sister to PHC. There were more sketches and recurring bits this year than I remembered from last year. Not necessarily a bad thing, but its future as the PHC replacement looks like an open secret from my seat at the Fitz.

  • bob collins

    The scenario I’m suggesting is not Moe becomes host of PHC. It ‘s Wits becomes the next PHC.

  • nicki

    On a side note, I am a regular reader, but infrequent commenter. I’m disappointed to see that there’s been so much abuse in the comments section that you have to pre-approve posts. Shame on people.

  • bob

    I’ve enjoyed PCH over the years, but as a 50-something sustaining member, I’ve always wished that the show was a little more hip. I relate more to Dessa and Motion City Soundtrack than I do to the Boys of the Lough.

    The best thing about PCH was Garrison’s political perspective.But it’s time for Garrison to turn over the reins of his time slot.

    I love the idea of Wits as an eventual replacement for PCH, John Moe is fine, but what about seeing if Lizz WInstead is available?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Jim – Thanks for reminding me of Joe Frank’s work. A true master.

    nicki – does a finger wag accompany that blanket admonition?

    Oops. Shame on me!


  • nicki

    Jim Shapiro, yes, there may have been some mental finger-wagging involved there, although not in your direction! News Cut is a welcome respite from the generally atrocious comments on the interwebs and to see a few trying to drag it down is quite disheartening.

  • Jim Shapiro

    nicki – thanks for the response and explanation.

    While Bob’s gem is pretty much the only forum of this genre that I participate in, the “comment held for review” thing throws me for a bit of a loop as well.

    Primarily because from time to time I’m been guilty of crossing the line of acceptable civility myself, and now that EVERYTHING is reviewed ( or is it just me?), I find myself wondering what naughty thing I said THIS time. 🙂

  • Bob Collins

    I have nothing to do with holding comments for moderation.

    The technical people did an upgrade on the backend and apparenlty blew out whatever it knew about what spam is and what isn’t and the system is slowly relearning this.

    that said, I still have to waste my time plucking out legitimate comments from the spam and everyone can make this process easier by avoiding irrelevant comments, like a debate about the comment policy in a post about Wits, for example.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – But she started it! ( In a whiny, accusatory, 12 year oldy tone.)


  • B Joe

    As a sustaining member, I wouldn’t miss PHC one bit. I think I’ve only listened to it on purpose a few times in my life, and then mostly only because I wanted to hear one of the musical acts.

    The last time I listened was when I was feeling homesick after moving across the country. Even then, I could only stand about five minutes before I turned it off. Not my cup of tea. I don’t know how many times MPR plays it every weekend, but it feels like it’s gotta be 5 or 6.

    Keillor is a clever man and a good story teller, I just don’t find him entertaining. I do find John Moe entertaining, and I hope Wits does end up taking over PHC’s timeslot, though I don’t think they should play Wits 20 times every weekend. I also hope that PHC gets retired whenever Keillor decides to retire.